|Hand spun and Crocheted Healing Shawl|
Award-winning author Linda Rodriguez writes the Skeet Bannion mysteries. Linda admits to spending too much time on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog.
In my Skeet Bannion mysteries, Every Last Secret, Every Broken Trust, and Every Hidden Fear (coming 5/6/2014), Skeet’s best friend Karen owns Forgotten Arts, a fiberarts store in the small college town of Brewster, Missouri, twelve miles north of Kansas City, Missouri. I gave Karen this store because I’ve always had a secret desire to own a fiberarts store just like it—and that’s one of the bennies of being a writer, living out dreams on the page. Karen raises Romney sheep and angora goats on a farm outside of town with the help of a Chilean shepherd and spins her own fiber into one-of-a-kind yarns that people drive miles to buy. She sells machine-spun knitting and weaving yarns, as well, and looms, spinning wheels, and all sorts of knitting, spinning, and weaving equipment.
I love the moments when I’m going to have Skeet walk into Forgotten Arts and spend some time there, perhaps buying yarn for her own knitting projects. And I do know what I’m talking about because I knit, spin, and weave, as well as make crazy quilts and art quilts. I probably could open a shop like Forgotten Arts out of my own house, which is overflowing not only with books and manuscripts—as you’d expect from a writer—but with spinning wheels, hand spindles, looms from inkle to the large rug loom in my living room, way too many knitting needles, sewing machines, and an overload of whole fleeces, prepared spinning fibers of all kinds, weaving and knitting yarns, and fabric. How did this craziness come about?
Both my grandmothers were accomplished needlewomen. My Scottish grandmother, the minister’s wife, sewed perfect quilts, dresses, and curtains. She even dyed old nylons and made realistic-looking silk-flower corsages for all her granddaughters at Easter. She never saw a pattern in a magazine that she couldn’t make. She taught me how to sew doll clothes and quilts by hand and rapped my knuckles sharply if I was lazy or clumsy and took big, sloppy stitches.
In her youth, my Cherokee grandmother had been a weaver of baskets of stunning beauty still used every day in her home. At the time I knew her, she knitted and crocheted. She showed me how to create a fabric out of one long continuous piece of yarn with only two sticks or one hook. She also taught me that stitches of any kind—knit, crochet, or sewing—were related to ancient knot magic, as was all weaving of cloth or baskets with its interlacing of fibers. She didn’t spin, although her mother and grandmother had, and she believed it was the most powerful magic of all. She had traveled to New Mexico and seen Navajo weavers carding, dyeing, spinning, and weaving wool. She told me that they were still in touch with that old magic.
So I started out ahead of most of my age-mates, thanks to these two very different women. I knew how to make my own clothes and, later, those of my children.
E li si, my Cherokee grandmother, was not a pattern follower like my other grandmother. She taught me to envision within my own mind what I wanted to make and to design and create it as I worked. In my twenties as a broke young wife and mother, I would use the craftsmanship and skills taught by one grandmother and the vision and creative confidence taught by the other to make the fashionable black velvet sofa and loveseat my young husband desired that I didn’t want us to go into debt to have.
Always in the back of my mind remained E li si’s words that spinning was the oldest and most powerful magic. I already knitted and sewed items for my loved ones in which I poured intention and desire into each stitch—for health and healing, for protection, for comfort in grief and pain, for success, for luck, for all the good I wanted to give those I loved. I had begun using color to reinforce these intentions and different stitches to create symbols to underscore my wishes and desires for my family and friends.
One day, I walked into a yarn shop to buy more knitting yarn and found a display of spinning wheels and spindles with a woman giving a demonstration of the ancient art of spinning. I walked out with a hand spindle and half a pound of cherry and indigo hand-dyed merino wool, and I set out to teach myself to spin. I learned that merino, buttery-soft and beautiful as it is, is not the ideal fiber for learning to spin. My progress moved much faster when I found Romney, a longer, sturdier wool.
Spindle, knitting needles, tapestry loom play a role in keeping me in touch with my ancestors and the traditions of knot magic and making tangible wishes for the ones we love. I am drawn to the most labor-intensive, hands-on experience because much of the creativity moves through my hands in direct line to the hands of those ancestors before me who spun, knit, sewed, and wove with the simplest looms. This act of making is a kind of reverence—for the fiber and the animals and plants from which it came, for the chain of daughters and granddaughters who have learned and passed on the skills down through the centuries, for the relationships with family and friends and the community formed of caring for them.
In 2006, one of my dearest friends faced aggressive breast cancer. The prognosis was alarming. Desperately concerned, I worked round the clock to spin and knit a multicolored shawl full of healing and strengthening intentions. She wore the shawl through surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and recovery. She beat the cancer and has since passed the shawl on to fifteen women friends and friends of friends faced with diagnoses of cancer. All survive and thrive to this day. Each wore the shawl throughout her ordeal. Many doctors have allowed them to wear the shawl during surgery, knowing the role of comfort and belief in defeating cancer.
I have since met several when they have come to my readings to meet me and thank me, but originally, I knew none of these women, save Deborah, my beloved friend for whom I originally made that shawl with so much intense desire and desperate, focused wishing for her survival and good health. Working with my hands and focusing that energy with love is a fundamental part of my life, and it’s brought all of these wonderful women into it, as well.
Every Broken Trust
Life has settled into routine for half-Cherokee Marquitta “Skeet” Bannion now that she’s gained custody of fifteen-year-old Brian Jameson—until a party at her house ends in a killing and an attack on Skeet’s best friend, Karen Wise, after a drunken man claims that Karen's husband’s accidental death years earlier was murder.
Brian’s friendship with a politician’s rebellious daughter and Karen’s fixation on finding her husband’s murderer frustrate Skeet’s efforts to keep them both safe while she tracks down the killer. Skeet struggles against the clock to solve a series of linked murders before she loses Brian forever and her best friend winds up in jail—or dead.